An Ouroboros of a blog.
I read an article on the Guardian website some time ago. It was published in April but I probably didn’t read it until a month or so after. I don’t read most articles I’d like to read until quite some time after they’re published; I bookmark them online with instapaper and send them to my e-reader to read when I have the time, energy and inclination. This particular article was preaching the virtues of not consuming the news, so by deferring its consumption until a later date I was going at least some way towards doing what it had not yet told me to do.
The article said that consuming news was bad, that it hinders creativity and deep thinking, and that avoiding it almost altogether would make you happier and more productive. From experience I wholeheartedly agree with this assessment, but I’m still slowly working my way down my list of articles to read while adding new ones at a much faster rate. Many of the articles aren’t strictly news, they’re articles on all sorts of topics, but there’s definitely a bias towards commentary on current events and the general state of global society in the shadow of on-going economic fuckery.
I also watch news on TV, though that’s often so I don’t have to watch any of the other hideousness that’s on TV. People who don’t want to watch the news typically say they avoid it because it’s boring and depressing, but watching repeats of late afternoon game shows is something that I find psychologically harrowing. Unfortunately that hauntingly unreal quality of contrived game shows is now commonplace on television news. The way the contestants on Deal Or No Deal weirdly emote to Noel Edmonds isn’t far off the modern vox pop. A random member of the public is asked to form a spurious opinion on something that is statistically quantifiable anyway, and the reality of a situation is effortlessly perverted. Only one is a game show and the other has a duty to accurately reflect reality. Still, Channel 4 News isn’t so terrible yet I suppose.
I attempt to stay informed about current events and the associated topics because I want to be engaged with the wider world, but as Rolf Dobelli suggested in the Guardian, you can become quite overwhelmed with too much information, especially if that information is all essentially telling you one thing: the world is fucked in so many ways that you’ve got fuck all chance of stopping the careering snowball of doom. It can leave you feeling cynical and apathetic, which is how I generally feel. I have a colleague who seems to think I’m quite well informed about things (I’m not, I just barely recall something I read in an article recently and regurgitate it inaccurately, much like now) and has an inquisitive mind which means that when we work together he asks me endless questions about all manner of topics. The other day, after a discussion about Keynesian vs. Hayekian economics (there’s a YouTube rap video about it) he asked me if the general state of society, as gleaned from my apparent, vicarious familiarity with it, made me feel depressed at all. Perhaps bombarding myself with the news and its commentary had indeed resulted in an impaired ability to think deeply, because I really struggled to reply for a moment. So I just said ‘yeah, I suppose,’ for want of a better answer.
I think the reason I hesitated is because I’m probably more depressed about my immediate circumstances (not earning much money, throwing a chunk of it away on rent, not being able to save a great deal due to the cost of living, or spend any on my passions) than I am about the circumstances of society as a whole. I’m too powerless in my own life to then want to heave onto that the weight of the world. It’s certainly more immediate than the decisions made at a national and global level as to what economic arrangements are most prudent. I want to be better off more than I want society to be better off. At least on an immediate, emotional level. In my own understanding of the world, I know that society being better off would increase my chances of being better off. But the possibility of improving my own lot in life seems slightly more achievable than improving it for everyone. I might get lucky, but what are the chances of everyone getting lucky? Thus I am the perfect capitalist participant. Or victim, being that while I am selfish I am probably not selfish enough to become one of those go getters. I assume you have to go and get whatever it is off someone else, like exploited workers in developing countries, or employees struggling to make ends meet on minimum wage. And of course I should be thankful for what I’ve got because at least I’m not using food banks. In fact, I’m truly selfish for wanting more in the first place. I should just watch one of these thrift chic programmes on Channel 4 and knit myself an iPad or piss my own Elderflower and Gooseberry cordial and feel superior to those chavs on BBC3 who have to vomit their own pit bulls.
My pathetic attempts to absorb information which explains the wider world in which I live has left me a little less thoughtful and a little less productive, because everything I consume does seem to suggest that the state of the world is not a problem of knowledge but a problem of power, and however much I attempt to gain the former I can’t see it transforming into the latter. And so I’m not sure why I continue to try and stay apprised of things. Perhaps it’s stimulating on some level, but it has not stimulated me creatively. I have not done any deep thinking for some time. This might partly be due to life getting in the way, to working hours and social commitments collectively eating up my thinking time, but I know my news digestion leaves me feeling informed only of my own impotence. Still, when I think about doing what the article suggests and cutting off my supply of intellectual anti-Viagra, I feel more selfish. Burdening myself with the knowledge of how it’s all going wrong has become my way of doing my bit. Which is entirely fucking unhelpful to everyone. It’s like the fallacy of national debt being akin to household debt, which leaves those in lower socio-economic brackets believing their hardship is part of some collective struggle for a greater good, while the wealthy carry on 3D-printing their own islands regardless.
Some of the journalists who uncover and communicate the injustices of our time must do so because they believe spreading the truth will help to effect change. Manning and Snowden probably had similar motivations, and across much of the modern world not a single fuck was given. The status quo continues largely unperturbed. How many people, like myself, consume the truth purely so they can seem well informed about it? Or tweet or blog it? Or cultivate a collection of bookmarks, carefully tagged, never to be referred to again? From that perspective, keeping myself informed seems a largely parasitic activity. My very consumption of the truth seems to negate any possibility of acting upon it. This is the nature of consumerism; it is its own end. I recall reading a powerful article about pitiful working conditions in Amazon warehouses on my Kindle. For that and the tax-dodging, I half-heartedly tried to avoid Amazon for a while, cancelled my Amazon-owned LoveFilm subscription, and referred to my Kindle as an e-reader in the first paragraph of this blog. Amazon are really struggling as a result.
The reason I haven’t blogged in ages is because, like loads of people, I’ve been slightly too busy and slightly too paralysed by the fact that it’s all been said already. I’ve read it being said on my Kindle, and having read it being said, I know it being written doesn’t matter that much if no one is going to act on it because they’re too busy or poor or stupid or powerless or all of the above. But being as I want to attempt to pursue some sort of creative outlet to abate my misery, whether writing blogs or writing stand-up material or finishing that short story I started last year, it’s about time I attempted to overcome that creative paralysis. So I thought if I wrote a blog about how apathetic and impotent I’m feeling, maybe that would help clear my head of it. Or, at the very least, inspire others to be apathetic and impotent too.